Culture staff recommends: Best books to read over Thanksgiving break

The seasons are changing, the days are getting shorter and the holidays are nearly upon us. To combat the frosty weather and shortened sunlight hours, there’s nothing better than escaping into a good book. Here are the culture staff’s recommendations for some great reads.

“The Gist” Keagan Lafferty

As winter approaches, it’s necessary to find cozy, engaging reads, and the best way to go about this is by embracing a trendy indie style and immersing yourself in the genre of poetry. 

Recently, I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of local poets, and I’m most impressed by a project known as “The Gist,” the University of Vermont’s literary and visual arts journal which publishes an issue every fall and spring semester. 

The publication includes poetry, prose, creative nonfiction and visual art submitted by students. It’s extremely engaging and has a wide variety of pieces since it’s a collaborative project. 

Physical copies can be acquired for free in the English department in Old Mill, or on their shelf in Brennan’s Pub. “The Gist” was previously known as “Vantage Point,” and on its website, there are PDFs available of archived editions. 

Take your reading to a local level and check out “The Gist.”

“Just Kids” by Patti Smith Olivia Nardone 

Do you love reading about New York City in the ‘70s? What about the lifestyle of a rockstar and poet hanging out with artists like Andy Warhol? Patti Smith’s memoir “Just Kids” will distract you from your never-ending to-do list. 

“Just Kids” depicts the chaotic life of Smith as she learns to survive adulthood, make sacrifices for love and attempt to make a name for herself in New York City’s artistic underground. 

Smith demonstrates that dreams can become a reality with years of hard work and sacrifice. Now a successful musical artist and author, during her time in New York City’s punk rock music scene she was extremely influential.

“Just Kids” is one of my all-time favorite books. Smith’s young adult life story has stayed with me since I read it last year. I recommend reading this when you need inspiration from other than pictures on your Pinterest board. 

“The Dead Romantics” by Ashley Poston Avery Delisle 

Above all things, I am a romance lover. So, when I started reading “The Dead Romantics” by Ashley Poston, I was only really looking for a lighthearted romance. Instead, I was irreversibly changed. 

“The Dead Romantics” is the perfect embodiment of the bittersweet nostalgia of autumn. If feelings were a book, this book would be the warmth of hot cocoa on a cold day combined with the sting of growing older. 

Reading “The Dead Romantics” is kind of like watching “When Harry Met Sally”—if Sally could see ghosts and deal with the dead. 

Covering topics ranging from the unbreakable ties between siblings to the connections involved in romance, at its core this book is filled with love of every kind. The characters are ones you can’t help but want to keep close with you. 

On top of that, though, it also puts a new perspective on death and what it means to grieve—because, as Laura Donney writes in the Marvel TV series “WandaVision,” “what is grief, if not love persevering?”

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong Grace Wang

My average assessment of a book is based on how easily I can put it down, the best of them being almost impossible to close. Breaking that notion though, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong is a book I am irrevocably in love with but is simultaneously deeply painful to read. 

The novel begs for pause, for reflection, for re-reading, for tears. Covering the experience of a young boy and his experience post-Vietnam War, Voung explores themes of generational trauma, class, addiction and mental health in his poetic voice. 

My personal connection to the Asian American experience in a small town made the book particularly impactful. I recommend this to anyone struggling with multiple identities and looking to be both absolutely devastated and in awe at the same time. 

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen Maya Surrenti

An old classic, “Pride and Prejudice” is a book I’d recommend with my last breath. I am a diehard Jane Austen fan, so let me tell you why you have to read this book.

First and foremost, it is the original enemies-to-lovers plotline. So, if you can’t get enough of that romance trope, this book is for you. 

Secondly, “Pride and Prejudice” can be read in any season. I’ve read this book on the beach or on my couch in the dead of winter. 

Finally, the plot twists in this novel will make your head spin. Do yourself a favor and read my personal preferred novel. 

“Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed Eamon Dunn

I first read “Tiny Beautiful Things” because a celebrity crush recommended it on Instagram. I wasn’t expecting all the emotions it took me through.

A culmination of letters sent in to Cheryl Strayed’s advice column on The Rumpus, an online literary magazine, the book is composed of countless individual stories of heartbreak, struggle, identity and more. Strayed answers each letter beautifully, focusing on the humanity of each person and embracing them in her endless compassion.

Recently, I briefly forgot just how powerful this book was and picked it back up again for some light reading in a cafe. About halfway through a column I chose at random, I started crying. 

I probably should have been embarrassed, as many people saw me, but the resounding message of the book is that everything will be okay, even if you need to cry in public to get there.